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Cortisol's effects on memory and depression

Guest Kristy

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"The hippocampus is an organ of the brain that is particularly vulnerable to stress and stress hormones," says Bruce McEwen, the head of neuroendocrinology at Rockefeller University in New York.

While cortisol levels normally fluctuate over the course of a day and night, they often soar when a person is faced with a stressful situation, such as a job interview or a school test. Studies have shown that this affects memory. For example, researchers reported in the April 2000 issue of Nature Neuroscience that people taking cortisone pills (which metabolizes to cortisol in the body) were not as good at remembering a list of words as people taking placebo pills.

For many people, depression appears to cause similar damage; their cortisol levels remain slightly elevated as long as they are depressed. This moderate but constant drip-drip of the cortisol faucet appears to wear down the hippocampus.

In a review of several long-term studies published in the October 1999 issue of Reviews in the Neurosciences, Lupien concluded that this process is particularly damaging in the elderly....

Still, more studies are needed to fully understand the connection between emotions and memory, cautions Mony de Leon, a psychiatrist and professor at New York University's medical school. The cortisol-hippocampus research is an exciting start, he says, but much remains a mystery.

For example, researchers haven't yet determined what, if any, role cortisol plays in Alzheimer's disease. Studies show all people with Alzheimer's have hippocampal damage, but their cortisol production varies. "All of these things remain somewhat foggy," says de Leon. "It requires much more extensive investigation." "

I found this at webmd.com under "forgetfulness".  Thought some of you might find this valuable.  The article tells how depression (often due to this cortisol level) can actually cause the hippocampus in the brain to shrink and cause memory lapses...and points out the depression seems to be a major cause of the shrinking.  So, any of us who are depressed should definitely seek treatment for the depression...treatment reduces the shrinking according to this article (from what I get out of it)...


See what you think....


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This is great.  Last night at chat I asked what effects your emotional state would have on your physical and mental state.  And the long term effects...  Like all this cortisol that we have/had....  just wondered how long it would affect our mental abilities and our physical state.  I know that the physical is long term as the body has so many adjustments to make after surgery...but I often wonder the what the lasting effects are.  My doctor told me at our first meeting that I probably would never be 100% recovered.  And everything I have read points to basically the same thing.  The emotional see saw always has short term effects, but I really would like to know the long term.  Look at how many never fully recover...  I can not seem to get my memory together on so much, and I don't believe it's simply my age (as I'm older).  This all ties in with the chapter Christina is writing about the brain.  Thanks so much for searching and finding this article.  

We sure are an awesome group of information gatherers....aren't we?

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